Divorce Mediation Blog

The SJC Weighs in on Self-Adjusting Alimony Orders and Recipient “Need”: Young v. Young, Part 8

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Levine Dispute Resolution - Alimony

“Did stated intent of the
order trump the its effect?”

In Young v. Young, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) vacated the trial court judgment that awarded variable alimony based on a fixed percentage of the husband’s gross pre-tax compensation, based in part on its conclusion that it crossed the Alimony Reform Act (ARA) (eff. 3.1.12):

…[B]ecause [the order] was intended to award the wife an amount of alimony that exceeds her need to maintain the lifestyle she enjoyed during the marriage. (Italics ours)

By focusing on the intent of the order, we can only infer that the court was addressing the judge’s rationale for the order, instead of the order itself. That election matters, because it raises two questions:

  1. If the trial judge explained herself differently, might the SJC have upheld the judgment?
  2. If the SJC looked at the order in its full ramification, would it have impacted the outcome?

The actual support award in Young was bi-lateral, rising and dropping with the husband’s income, a fact eclipsed by the court’s sharp focus on intent. Thus, while the trial judge may have focused her analysis of the parties’ rising station, her order actually provided downside protection for the husband, too.

Had the judge expressed an intent to protect the husband in the event of income decline and stressed it concomitantly with the potential for “upside”, might the “intent” infirmity that the SJC seized upon been neutralized? Or, if the judge had found that a family with roller coaster income might experience corresponding lifestyle flux?

After all, as the SJC observed:

    There may also be special circumstances where an alimony award based on a percentage of the supporting spouse's income might not be an abuse of discretion, such as where the supporting spouse's income is highly variable from year to year, sometimes severely limiting his or her ability to pay, and where a percentage formula, averaged over time, is likely not to exceed the needs of the recipient spouse.

The SJC dealt with the former, but not the latter.

Get e-mail notifications of new blog posts! Enter email address below.:

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


Self-adjusting alimony orders alimony law divorce and family law dispute resolution facilitated negotiations mediation Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC Obamacare conciliation fraud Levine Dispute Resolutions traditional negotiations family and probate law disputes Baseball lawyer-attended mediation Massachusetts lawyers Chouteau Levine Uniform Arbitration Act resolve disputes divorce judgment mediations high-risk methodology separation medical benefits family law arbitrator litigation rehabilitative alimony med-arb Massachusetts divorce mediators Twinkies alimony orders Matrimonial Arbitration divorce mediation how baseball arbitration works COLA divorce arbitration Same Sex Marriage Divorce Agreements Levine Dispute Resolution Center alimony reform legislation Massachusetts alimony divorce lawyers lawyer MLB labor agreement LDRC General term alimony Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth Cohabitation Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act Baseball Players disputes health insurance divorced divorce and family law mediators arbitrator divorce litigation Boston Divorce Child Support Guidelines divorce mediators family support Massachusetts alimony and child support lawyers alimony annulment Defense of Marriage Act med/arb health coverage Levine Dispute Resolution family law mediation divorce process divorce mediator The Seven Sins of Alimony divorce mediations family law divorce arbitrators Alimony Reform Act Major League Baseball Arbitration Baseball Arbitration SJC private dispute resolution support orders pre-ARA alimony self-adjusting alimony divorce agreement mediator mediators Family Law Arbitration special master IRC §2704 Massachusetts Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly family mediation alimony statute arbitrators child support DOMA arbitration family law arbitrators divorce arbitrator